ENGL 350: Indian
MODERN USAGE: In reference to native peoples of the Americas, the term “Indian” is the product of Columbus’s 15th Century visit, in which he mistook the region for India; Columbus referred to the people as “indios,” or “Indians.” The term in various forms has since been used disrespectfully, and its use is advised against by scholars of Native American studies.
Whether “Indian” is disrespectful is a complex question. It has definitely been used in such a way historically, “as in its bastardized form ‘Injun’ or in its contemporary use in Mexico . . . to describe people thought of as poor, backwards, and racially disadvantaged” (Robert Warrior, "Keywords," 132).
Part of the reason a term that will refer generally to all American Indians is unsuccessful is the diversity of the various peoples that are thrown into the term. It is preferred whenever possible that specific tribal names are used, as these terms emphasize this diversity and uniqueness between tribes (for example, Dakota, Yupik, Ojibwe, Yakama).
It is preferred that “Indian” not be used alone, but instead “American Indian,” similar to collective terms such as Irish American and African American. “Native American,” the dominant usage in place in the United States, also has shortcomings in the eyes of some. This term literally applies to anyone born on the continent, and therefore does not encompass the specific peoples it intends to refer to. Still, the term (or the shortened form "Natives") generally applies to any indigenous peoples of the Americas, and is very useful to scholars in this sense.
Residual meanings of Indian, initially relied heavily on the British colonization on the people of India. These people were commonly thought to be exotic (being associated with things like spices, metalwork, and jewelery) and mysterious, while still lesser evolved or established than the British Empires. The original Indian people were strange and fascinating to the majority of British middle and upper classes, though not trusted.
Looking at this word from a different aspect, "Indian," is actually considered an adjective to descibe a person or a group/nation of people, as well as other social groups as previously mentioned in this discussion; on the other hand, Merriam Webster's dictionary also cites Indian as relating to the noun "Indianness." Therefore "Indianess" can actually serve as a subject itself, and not just a describing word for a certain people.
The word "Indian" is a loaded term and means different things to different social and racial groups. Webster's dictionary defines Indian as "a member of any of the aboriginal peoples of the Americas; a native of India or the East Indies.
So looking at Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, I can't help but find the word "Indian" to come up and simply refer to the people or nation; I don't really see any other connections or correlations. I can't exactly write the page numbers because I have a different version of the book than everyone else, but within the first ten pages or so it seems that "Indians" and the "Indian nation" is looked at as outsiders. Although Indians that come from America often cosider the term Native-American more appropriate and proper, Indian seems to be the slang made up not only from the Christopher Columbus mishap, but also as a way to isolate the people from feeling that the land or territory they resided on was theirs in any way. In other words, it seems like the word "Indian" can almost be identified as a way to label a nation that didn't belong at the time because the new found land was for "Americans" because they now discovered American land, not Indian land for Indians. I know this is kind of a stretch, but my thoughts are a little jumbled on this still, I'm sure it might make more sense for when we discuss this...please feel free to correct me in anyway or add a rebuttal to my opinion!
In Franklin's use of the term Indian he also uses it as a noun and an adjective. As he says, "Indian corn" on page 137, and also as a rather pejorative noun on page 122, when he states, "LET THIS BE FOR INDIANS TO GET DRUNK WITH...extirpate these savages in order to make room for the cultivators of the Earth." Indian when used as a noun seems to carry a rather negative connotation to it for Franklin.
Franklin's use the term "Indians" in this statement is a profound use of American stereotype of drunk and "savage". Odd words that are almost out of place in this novel, for it is an autobiography, and reflect negative connotations on the author (But perhaps not in this era?)
Many of contexts Franklin uses the term Indian for are adjectives such as Indian Business. This seems to be common to use the term as an adjective even today. With that in mind we can see that it carries a negative connotation in many of its forms such as Indian burn or Indian giver. The latter being someone who takes back what they originally gifted, and the former being a rubbing of the skin until it turns red.
I noticed a passage in Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia" where he writes, "I never yet saw a native American begging in the streets or highways" (140). I thought this was interesting because in his use of native American he is referring not to Indians as we would say in modern political correct context, but rather in reference to white settlers as the natives.
I noticed in the IV Appendix in notes on the state of Virginia that Jefferson seems to use the term "squaw" a lot when referring to Indian women. Aside from being a cluster term I delved into it a little bit deeper and found out some really interesting information. The Wikipedia page for the word says that it can be used as a word to describe a young woman wikipedia. This seems to be in the context that Jefferson uses it, but I couldn't see why then the word is not more widely used today. However, Suzan Harjo, on an appearance for the Oprah Winfrey show in 1992, said that the term is the Algonquin word for vagina, or more explicitly, cunt. This is particularly interesting because several maps and towns have stricken this from their names since then.
Going through Hobomok I found many references to Indians and our already talked about negative effects and connotations assigned to the term:
pg. 17 describes an Indian talking, and later to replace the term "Indian," "savage" is used instead. Also, in this same conversation piece, the "Indian" woman is referenced as a "savage" while the white woman is presented as a "maiden"
pg.39 categorizes Indians as not only a separate people by name, but color as well--"red"--which we have seen in previous readings as well
pg. 48 reads "It is a shame that an Indian must teach us who is our shield and our buckler"-Mr. Conant. This quotation seems to communicate embarassment and unbelief that an inferior race, such as the "Indians," had to point something out or "teach" the white nation something they were unable to see. This is "a shame" it seems because whites should be superior to "Indians," therefore their race (whites) should have nothing to learn from them (Indians).
In addition to all of these passages that can be spotted with an underlying meaning for the term "Indian," throughout the story of Hobomok something else to take into account as well is how the Indian people are always defined as "Indians," whether it is someone of the race talking, or the race being talked about. On the other hand, however, whites are always referred to with a specific name, such as Mr. Conant, or Mary; this shows more consideration, respect, importance, superiority, etc.
Looking at David Walker's Appeal, I noticed that he, like many of the authors we have already read in class (Keyswords, Jefferson, etc.), refers to "Indians" as people from different regions of the world. Therefore, "Indian" must be specified such as North American Indian or South American Indian, etc., to know which race is being talked about depending on the context. Also, on page 9 Walker seems to define "Indians" as the natives of any land, and this is repeated on page 71 when he specifically talks about the "Aborigines...or (Indians)." Basically Walker gives the idea that these words are interchangeable because they are used to give the same meaning, which is to be the original people or nation to a certain territory.
Interesting article about the terms "Native American vs. American Native." I have to admit I never really thought of a difference, and I usually always think of Native American instead of the other way around, but here's the article incase it strikes any interests: http://www.slate.com/id/2107102/
"The Indian diaspora today constitutes an important, and in some respects unique, force in world culture. The origins of the modern Indian diaspora lie mainly in the subjugation of India by the British and its incorporation into the British empire. Indians were taken over as indentured labor to far-flung parts of the empire in the nineteenth-century, a circumstance to which the modern Indian populations of Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Surinam, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and other places attest in their own peculiar ways." <http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/Diaspora/diaspora.html> This quotation, followed by web address, was actually something I just ran into on the internet by coincidence, but found it relevant because it includes two terms being discussed; diapora being used in the way it is defined as a scattering of people (in this case Indians from the Middle East and so on), and Indian as a people, which includes many specific countries and territories that people might not think of right away when using the term "Indian'."
In looking at a cluster term that is still used in modern context, the term "Indian Giver" has a somewhat ambiguous meaning to it. For some it refers to the ways Indians were treated by white settlers being given gifts and then having them taken away. For others it seems to refer to the nature of Indians being the type of people that break promises. According to Wikipedia, "among many Aboriginal nations, to bestow something of value to another, the item was given, then taken back three times. If given a fourth time, it was considered permanent. This practice was in accordance with the philosophy that everything was cyclical and everything with a cycle was done in fours. The term has been misinterpreted by people who have little or no understanding of Aboriginal culture and has become the pejorative definition that is common today wikipedia. This is one possible explanation of how the term came to be used in modern context of someone who takes back a gift that they have given.
In an article in Sports Illustrated from March of 2002, there is an article by S.L. Price dealing with the issue of sports teams, such as, the Atlanta Braves or the Washington Redskins using derogatory terms for Indians'. The article is titled "Indian Wars," and you can follow the link to it here. One of the questions Price poses is particularly interesting in this keyword study. as he writes, "Who gets to decide what we call one another?"
These are just some of the diverse pictures that I found in my one word "Indian" search done on Google. It is amazing how much you can tell from just pictures; there is such an evident difference in culture concerning tribal clothing or paint, facial features, body types, and skin colors. It is amazing that with all of these differences everyone is simply classified as "Indian." Although there are more specific names that come before the term "Indians," they are not always used, such as speaking of "American Indians," many times they are just referred to as "Indian." I guess it just makes me think what are the similarities between all of these "races" or peoples around the world that makes them all close enough or alike enough to have them all be classified under one common term?
I know this has been touched on before, (I actually think by me!), but I found an intersting article/arguement talking about American Indian versus Native American: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/aihmterms.html In the article they compare using American Indian instead of Native American to using Negro instead of black. I've never actually met an Indian person who has had a preference on this, but it's an intersting arguement and definitely not something to rule out. By this I mean that, at first the comparison seems unlikely and easily dismissable, but if you really think about it and go through the arguement, it is something to think about and consider.
The term “Indian” itself is full of miscommunication it seems. Because the word (at least in the American sense) was derived from Christopher Columbus’ mistake when “discovering” America, it seems to hold a strong level of hypocrisy and unfair history. It is offensive to some, and normal for others, like most racial terms, it seems to satisfy few and stereotype many. The term also seems to speak to a way of life, rather than a group of people in some respects. "Indian words" are often used in correlation with a definition.
It may also be important to look at not only groups of "Indians" but the individual who is classified in one way or another as "Indian". This could be for several ethnical reasons, but no matter what race classifies as Indian, it also lumps singles into mass groups, which are of course full of connotations, both positive and negative.
To kind of think of my own question, I am starting to think of and picture all the different kinds of peoples classified as "Indian." When pondering this I seem to imagine that these groups of people are usually tribal or in a very "natural" way of living, in most cases still to present day, and are perhaps seen as an "uncivilized" civilization by more advanced nations. Also, these groups always seem to be a minority population where ever they may be living; however, with these thoughts, I am still a little puzzled on where to fit in East Indians in this category because they do seem very different than the "tribal" Indians we might think of or see in pictures and movies today.
This brings to light the idea of Indians as "barbaric" people. What defines the word Barbaric? Is it lack of evolution, civilization, technology, social grace? I think perhaps for the Europeans, it was a mix of all the above. Obviously, the Indian (meaning Native American) cultures were considered "less than" by the majority of Europe. This idea could have started upon meeting the native people and being shocked by their attire or social norms, but was it perpetuated by a lack of written word and advanced technology (such as printing, industry, and lack of complex trade routes). The word barbaric also has interesting ties to the word African as well, but I doubt that anyone would begin to claim that Native American cultures are a complete mirror of African cultures. So it complicates the definition to think of the similarities and differences within that particular comparison. If Voodoo is barbaric, then is the worship of Mother Earth barbaric? If so it remains unclear what the two religions share in common beyond a belief in a spirit world and lack of sublime churches. Perhaps it is a lack of the sublime that makes them both barbaric, but that's another article entirely.
In an excerpt from wikipedia concerning the Indian Diaspora, "In the nineteenth century, the incessant westward expansion of the United States incrementally compelled large numbers of Native Americans to resettle further west, often by force, almost always reluctantly. Under President Andrew Jackson, United States Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized the President to conduct treaties to exchange Native American land east of the Mississippi River for lands west of the river. As many as 100,000 Native Americans eventually relocated in the West as a result of this Indian Removal policy. In theory, relocation was supposed to be voluntary (and many Native Americans did remain in the East such as the Choctaw who were first to be removed), but in practice great pressure was put on Native American leaders to sign removal treaties. Arguably the most egregious violation of the stated intention of the removal policy was the Treaty of New Echota, which was signed by a dissident faction of Cherokees but not the elected leadership. The treaty was brutally enforced by Jackson, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated four thousand Cherokees on the Trail of Tears."
In an article by the Associated Press 2-15-08, it deals with a similar situation of America's Indian Diaspora. The article deals with Austrailia's past mistreatment of Aborigines, for which Prime Minister Kevin Rudd along with parliament planned to give a formal apology for.
"BEING NATIVE" and CITIZENSHIP
Citizenship for American Indians, European colonists and their descendants has been mediated by opposing definitions of Native-ness. On one hand, “Native” and “Indian” have been used synonymously, but where Indian has been used predominantly as a racial term, the word “native” has not.
Jefferson uses the word as a term of national pride. For example, he states, “I never yet saw a native American begging in the streets or highways.” Jefferson later uses “native” in the geopolitical sense. He writes, “I must refer to our great botanist Dr. Clayton…This accurate observer was a native and resident of this state.” (164) This sense of the word endures in modern American usage, where non-Natives commonly identify as "native" to a place in the United States (ie "I'm a Seattle native...").
The word "native" in literature refers to racial power dynamics, as well as the ways in which White descendants of colonists sought to de-racialize the term. These descendants reworked it into one that would legitimize their presence on the continent and establish them as natural citizens.
Until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, Indians occupied an unusual status under federal law. Some had acquired citizenship by marrying white men. Others received citizenship through military service, by receipt of allotments, or through special treaties or special statutes. But many were still not citizens, and they were barred from the ordinary processes of naturalization open to foreigners. Congress took what some saw as the final step on June 2, 1924 and granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the United States.
The granting of citizenship was an attempt by the federal government to absorb Indians into the mainstream of American life and not in response to a petition by Indian groups. After Indian participation in World War I where there existed no segregated Indian units as there were for African Americans, it (granting of citizenship) seemed a logical extension and culmination of the assimilation policy. Members of white society declared that they had passed the test during wartime and were deserving of citizenship. Dr. Joseph K. Dixon, an active proponent of assimilating the "vanishing race" into white society, wrote -- "The Indian, though a man without a country, the Indian who has suffered a thousand wrongs considered the white man's burden and from mountains, plains and divides, the Indian threw himself into the struggle to help throttle the unthinkable tyranny of the Hun. The Indian helped to free Belgium, helped to free all the small nations, helped to give victory to the Stars and Stripes. The Indian went to France to help avenge the ravages of autocracy. Now, shall we not redeem ourselves by redeeming all the tribes?" So, the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 proclaimed -- "BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and house of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all non citizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property. (Approved June 2, 1924)"
Although Congress eventually granted citizenship to Indians, they still have not done enough. I feel that they can never make up for the wrongs of the past (taking over their land). In fact, looking at the act from a different view, it can be said that granting citizenship as a final step of assimilation into American culture is really just a continuation of their mistreatment. By assimilating the Indians as Dixon states is to create a “vanishing race” and to further demonstrate their perceived inferiority to Whites.
INDIAN LAND OWNERSHIP
The Native American Indians and the European settlers (white man) each had different ideas about land ownership. For the Indians although their cultures and languages were varied, most shared a similar understanding of the meaning and stewardship of land. Since nature represented Indians’ very being their cultures and religions were entangled with nature. Land belonged to all, especially the tribe. The concept of individual land ownership did not exist, since all were entitled to the fruits of nature. Users’ rights were protected and they could clear land for farming, but once abandoned anyone could cultivate it.
“Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every clearing and wood, is holy in the memory and experience of my people. Even those unspeaking stones along the shore are loud with events and memories in the life of my people,” (Chief Seattle).
So, with the concept of land ownership not existing in Native American cultures it is no surprise that Indians naively signed treaties that displaced them Westward and off of their lands. Eventually, views shifted and Indians were granted increasing rights. Today, the Federal Indian Trust Responsibility, under which the United States "has charged itself with moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust" toward Indian tribes, was established which protects tribal lands, assets, resources, treaty rights, and gives a duty to carry out mandates of federal law with respect to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes.
THE NOBLE SAVAGE
The Noble Savageis a culture of "Primitivism", uncorrupted by the influences of civilization, was considered more worthy, more authentically noble than the contemporary product of civilized training. The idealized picture of "nature's gentleman" was an aspect of eighteenth-century Sentimentalism, among other forces at work and embodies the doctrine of the innate goodness of humans without the bounds of civilization.
Native, Savage, Colonization, Border, Naturalization, Race